Sonoma County drug agents seized close to 400 marijuana plants from two Santa Rosa homes Wednesday, including one house in a densely built southwest neighborhood near Elsie Allen High School.
The larger of the two growing operations was located near Taylor Mountain on the south edge of town at a home authorities believe was rented solely for that purpose, sheriff's Sgt. Steve Gossett said. But investigators believe both operations were linked, Gossett said.
The seizure is the latest in a string of law enforcement raids over the past several months at residential properties with significant amounts of marijuana growing indoors and out. It is emblematic of a shift from illegal backwoods pot farms to year-round gardens in neighborhoods.
One man, Daniel Mulvihill, 29, was arrested Wednesday as he left the Kawana Terrace ranch house around the time members of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Narcotics Task Force arrived to serve a search warrant.
He was arrested on suspicion of cultivating and possessing marijuana for sale, and was being held at the Sonoma County Jail with bail of $20,000.
The green house, located at the transition to rural pasture land where neighbors keep goats and cattle, contained evidence it was being used to dry and process pot, Gossett said.
Out back, a large green barn with roll-up doors yielded 281 marijuana plants and dozens of 1,000-watt grow lights, as well as venting equipment.
"No one lives here," Gossett said. "This is purely just for growing marijuana."
A second search warrant was served on Barndance Lane north of Elsie Allen High, where 105 plants were found in a bedroom and in the garage, he said.
Keys to the Kawana Terrace house were found in the Barndance Lane house.
No one was home when authorities arrived around 7:30 a.m. Neighbors on the dead-end street east of Stony Point Road described friendly, low-key residents -- principally a man in his 20s or 30s, though two other young men and a woman, possibly his mother, also stayed there at times.
None of them suggested anything that might be illegal was going on at the house, neighbors said.
"I'd see him in the morning, and I'd say, 'Off to work?' and he'd say, 'Oh, yeah. Off to work,'" said Shirley Sutliff, who lives across the street.
Gossett declined to say anything about the investigation that led to Wednesday's searches, but said deputies would be trying to track down whoever lived at the Barndance house.
He said suspects in such cases commonly claim the plants are for medical purposes. "We wouldn't take it if we thought it was growing legally," he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.